Local Solutions for a Global Economy


GFI Begins Assessing Damage, Distributing Aid on Nepal's Quake-hit Brick Kilns

GFI Begins Assessing Damage, Distributing Aid on Nepal's Quake-hit Brick Kilns

Bhaktapur, Nepal (May 1, 2015) -- Squatting on the mud by the quake-shattered chimney of the brick kiln where she works and lives, 21-year-old Samjana Pariyar cradled her one-year old, whose forehead bears a crusted wound from the bricks of the shack that collapsed in the earthquake.

During the quake, the workers at this Bhaktapur kiln were fortunate. No one was hit by the towering chimney as it split and fell, and they dug their children alive out of the piles of bricks that had been their shacks. But as a shell-shocked Kathmandu struggles with catastrophe, the kiln workers, who come here from distant mountain villages and India, are stranded and afraid. “People will die here of disease and hunger,” Pariyar told the Global Fairness Initiative team that came to Shree Sarswoti Brick Industry after the quake to assess the situation.

Two hundred brick workers have been living in the kiln since the earthquake without access to food, water and proper shelter. The team returned to feed all the workers and their children with water purifying tablets, ready-to-eat noodles, beaten rice, and dalmat, a high-protein pre-packaged lentil snack. Workers were also provided with chlorine tables to purify drinking water by GFI and first-aid supplies by Nepal GoodWeave Foundation.

Brick workers are already the poorest of the poor, living at the kilns in low shacks of piled bricks and often in debt to middlemen, which can leave them in bondage and take years to repay. GFI has been working to break the cycle of bonded labor and child labor that keeps so many workers in poverty.

All around Kathmandu, which is circled by brick kilns, the tall chimneys have fallen, their stubs still towering into the sky. The earthquake has left many kilns with so many damage that workers don’t feel safe in the firing zone. The cracked chimneys and quake-shifted walls of the firing zone pose safety hazards, and GFI has offered to make arrangements for workers to return to their homes and unite with their family members.

Photo Credit: Sally Acharya

The brick-firing team from India, fearing a possible health epidemic and scarcity of food and water, are looking to return to their villages. GFI has informed the Indian Embassy about their situation and has provided the firing team with information on how to contact the embassy.

While the impact of the earthquake was comparatively minor in the Midwestern hill region of Rolpa and Salyan, home to many of this kiln’s migrant workers, they report that their own homes in the village have suffered damage. After a year of frequent unseasonable rain that reduced brick production, capped off with the devastation of the earthquake, their earnings are unlikely to enable them to sustain their families and repay the debt to the middlemen who brought them to the kiln. One worker, Muna Pun, 21, said it may take her family as long as three years to repay the remaining debt.

As the brick season has mainly ended, molders had already returned to their villages before the earthquake. They are from the districts hardest hit by the earthquake, particularly Sindhupalchowk and Kavre, and GFI will follow up to learn their situation and the condition of their villages.

Click here to learn more about GFI’s Better Brick Nepal Initiative.

Write up by Sally Acharya in Nepal

GFI TILI Program Making Progress in Tunisia (Video)

The Global Fairness Initiative began implementing the Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative (TILI) in 2012 as a program to address the large informal sector in the country. More than two years later, the team reflects in this short film on the progress that TILI has made.

Click here to learn more about GFI’s Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative.

GFI Holds Conference in Tunis on Integrating Informal Sector into the Formal Economy


GFI, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Italian Ministry of Development and Cooperation (IDC), and the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS), held a conference in Tunis that brought together government and civil society stakeholders to present the results of GFI’s Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative (TILI) and discuss integrating Tunisia’s informal sector into the formal economy.

TUNIS, Tunisia – Economists, Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, activists, professors, and concerned citizens joined together in Tunis this past week to review the progress of GFI’s Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative (TILI) and chart the next steps toward integrating Tunisia’s informal sector into the formal economy. Held on March 19, the Informal Employment in Tunisia at the Heart of the Social and Economic Development Plan conference provided an opportunity for thought leaders to review and debate progress on Tunisia’s economic growth and the role that the informal sector may play in the nation’s economic and social development.

Convening less than twenty-four hours after the attack on Tunisia’s Bardo Museum, the conference opened with a moment of silence in solidarity with the victims of the attack. Opening statements from the conference’s hosts, GFI, ILO, IDC and TAMSS, all recognized the tragedy and pledged to continue working to develop Tunisia’s economy and democracy in the face of terrorism.

Following the opening statements, the ILO’s Frederic Lapeyre—a specialist on informal economies—presented research conducted by the ILO since 2002 on the informal economy. His research found that 42-50% of Tunisian workers are in the informal economy, with 36% of young Tunisians in the informal economy. According to ILO research, the informal sector in Tunisia is highly concentrated in rural areas, and a large proportion of informal work is done in the service and construction industries. Mr. Lapeyre presented a number of conclusions from the ILO’s research, including the determination that formal sector growth in Tunisia is presently insufficient to fully incorporate the informal sector.

Mr. Lapeyre’s presentation was succeeded by the first of two expert panels. The panel, “The Extent of the Informal: Approaches, Definitions, Measures, and Perspectives”, featured experts on informality, including GFI’s Founder and President, Karen Tramontano. Ms. Tramontano was joined by Mr. Lapeyre, representatives from Tunisia’ largest trade and employer unions (UGTT and UTICA, respectively), and Ezzedine Saidane, a founder and former CEO of the Arab Banking Corporation, Tunisia. The panelists discussed emerging definitions and approaches to informality, and Ms. Tramontano shared insights on GFI’s experience addressing informality in Tunisia and Guatemala. Much of the conversation centered on ensuring that informality is not understood purely as a criminal act, but rather as a means by which society makes up for gaps in the formal economy. The panel agreed that in order to address informality, all stakeholders must be brought to the table and given an opportunity to share their experience and inform future economic policies and regulations. Further, panelists praised Tunisia’s new constitution for its strength in mandating democracy and free expression, but decried it for its limits on business and the economy. Soulef Ksontini, a Member of Parliament from the Ennahdha Party, who was also in attendance, agreed that reforms need to occur in order to improve Tunisia’s economy and address the informal sector.

The second and final panel, “Informal Employment Among Young People and Women: Presentation of Local Experiences and International Support to the Transition to the Formal Economy” featured GFI’s Tunisia Country Director, Asma Ben Hassen. She was joined by Tunisia’s Directors General of the Ministries of Finance and Employment, as well as the Director of Tunisia’s Labor Inspectorate, the Director General of the Technical Center of Mechanical and Electrical Industries, and a representative from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). This panel included presentations on two projects that worked with informal workers to transition them to the formal economy: the TILI project and a program implemented by GIZ to formalize waste pickers. Aicha Karrafi, the Director General of the Ministry of Finance, also introduced a new initiative from the ministry that would aim to certify businesses and educate consumers on the importance of supporting the growth of the formal economy by purchasing from certified, formal businesses. This initiative also may include a flat tax for small businesses, to make paying taxes simpler and encourage formalization, according to Ms. Karrafi. Questions and debate from the panelists and audience members focused on the appropriate role of government and civil society in regulating the informal economy. One audience member, a woman who worked as an artisan in a handicraft village in El Kef, recounted for the audience how she worked with the TILI program to formalize her activity and gain access to social security and labor protection from the government.

Throughout the event, audience members repeatedly interjected to insert their opinions or expertise in the debate, and there was a palpable sense of purpose among the participants in the conference. In implementing the Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative, GFI strived to push the issue of transitioning informal workers to the formal economy into the national agenda. With the success of this conference, it is apparent that the TILI team is meeting that goal.

Click here to learn more about GFI’s Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative.

Walmart Foundation supports training for 30,000 women

Walmart Foundation Supports GFI and SEWA to Train
30,000 Women for Work in India’s Booming Retail Sector

GFI/SEWA Program Targets India’s “Women’s Employment Gap” by Preparing Tens of Thousands of Women for Full Employment in Retail Sales and Management

Washington, DC and Ahmedabad, India – With support from the Walmart Foundation, the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) and the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) have launched a robust program to deliver high-value, opportunity–driven training in retail sales and management to more than 30,000 women in India. Tailored to employment in the retail sector, and rooted in SEWA’s highly regarded life skills training methodology, the Retail Opportunity Training Initiative (ROTI) is certificate-level instruction designed to help bridge the opportunity gap between India’s underemployed women and the country’s fastest growing economic sector.

"We are thrilled to be working with the support of the Walmart Foundation on this game-changing initiative,” said Karen A. Tramontano, President, Global Fairness Initiative. “We applaud the Walmart Foundation’s leadership in launching programs that help empower and create more equitable opportunities for women producers and workers.”

The Retail Opportunity Training Initiative’s goals are to:

• Develop and deliver a world class, certificate-level curriculum on Retail Sales and Management emphasizing essential technical and “life skills” necessary for full and successful employment • Create a center for excellence in retail sector leadership and employment within the highly regarded SEWA Manager Ni School • Matriculate and graduate more than 30,000 women trained and empowered for a career in retail sales and supported by a robust job placement platform aimed at promoting women, and placing women certificate holders, in India’s organized retail sector

“The Walmart Foundation is proud to support this collaboration between the Global Fairness Initiative and the Self-Employed Women’s Association. Working together and drawing on their complementary skills and expertise, these organizations will help thousands of women build successful careers in retail, leading to greater economic mobility and stronger communities,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, President, Walmart Foundation.

Certificate-level courses will be administered in SEWA Training Centers and will be available to any applicants, female and male, meeting basic criteria and including those from SEWA’s nearly 1.5 million members throughout India. The trainings courses will be led by SEWA’s Manager Ni School (SMS) which brings an exceptional reputation for excellence in leadership development, and draws on an unparalleled network of Master Instructors.

"We are pleased to be partnering with our friends at GFI to launch this important program with the Walmart Foundation's support," said Reema Nanavaty, General Secretary of the Self-Employed Women's Association. “It is a most welcome and valuable opportunity to further the SEWA mission of empowering women with the essential tools and knowledge they need to realize their personal and entrepreneurial goals.”

About SEWA The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a trade union organization of over 1.5 million self-employed women workers who earn a living through their own labor or small businesses. SEWA’s primary goals are to organize women to ensure that every family obtains full employment. SEWA’s belief is that all women should be autonomous both economically and in terms of their decision-making ability. Based in Gujarat India, SEWA has organized women producers through India, Asia, and around the globe. SEWA’s approach to organizing is area specific and demand driven and livelihood activities are structured according to local needs and regional characteristics. To learn more about SEWA visit: www.sewa.org

About GFI The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) aims to change the global poverty cycle through market-based initiatives that benefit small-holder producers and workers around the globe. Through community-based programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, GFI leads strategic partnerships and interventions that enable more equitable opportunity and drive full-employment for the working poor. GFI’s critical programs emphasize social protections and economic access, and ensure that the voices of the poor are integrated into public policy and echoed by decision makers in order to create a more equitable social and economic environment for small and marginalized producers. Focusing on the bottom line, namely strengthening wages, market access, decent work, and livelihoods as a whole, GFI has helped to improve the lives of thousands of workers and communities worldwide. To learn more about GFI visit: www.globalfairness.org

About Philanthropy at Walmart Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. As part of our commitment to creating a more sustainable food system worldwide, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are leading the fight against hunger in the United States. They recently exceeded a $2 billion goal to fight hunger one year ahead of schedule and have donated more than 1.5 billion pounds of food to those in need across the country. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit www.foundation.walmart.com.

Learn more about the program

myRepublica Feature: GFI/Teterev Foundation Deliver for Children on Kilns

GFI's Bridge School Program, supported by The Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation, draws national attention for supporting the education of children on Nepal's Brick Kilns

Ensuring education and personality development

February 12, 2015

Establishment of Child Development and Training Center gives families of brick factory workers new hope KATHMANDU, Feb 11: Laborers at Shree Champimai Brick Factory in Lalitpur have a reason to smile. Their children will benefit from the recently established child development and learning center that is the joint effort of the factory and Global Fairness Initiative (GFI), an NGO. Earlier, they had no option but to carry their children around while working. But after the establishment of the center, their children can be seen playing or resting in the three-roomed center in the factory premises. Kalpana Pariyar, 20, feels a huge sense of relief. Until a couple of months ago, she was worried that carrying her child with her while carrying bricks would hurt him. “But now, with this new child center, I can work without worries,” says Pariyar who has been working at the factory for two years along with her husband. Another mother, Pooja Ghimire, is equally happy about the new center. Bringing her child to work meant exposing him to the excess smoke and dust which caused cough and cold, eye burning, etc. Now her 18-month-old child receives proper care and nutritious food. - Click here to read the full article:

Learn more about The Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation,
supporters of the Bridge School Program:
Teterev Foundation Website